Political dialogue on ‘Commuting with Dignity’ held

The Pakistan Sustainable Transport (PAKSTRAN) Project organized a political dialogue on Tuesday to reaffirm the need for sustainable transport systems in the country, and to discuss the stance of prominent political parties of the country on mass transit systems.

The dialogue titled “Commuting with Dignity: A Political Dialogue on Sustainable Urban Transport in Pakistan” aimed at creating a better understanding of sustainable urban transport concepts amongst stakeholders, particularly the policy makers. It furthermore aimed to create awareness about transportation issues, and how mass transit systems can help address traffic congestions issues.

The event, moderated by Syed Talat Hussain, a prominent media expert, helped generate a debate on the advantages of mass transit systems, specifically the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transport.

The panel for the dialogue included politicians and subject experts that highlighted issues and opportunities relating to sustainable transport in Pakistan. The objective of the event was to secure a commitment from political parties towards raising awareness of and supporting the development of mass transit systems that are safe, clean and comfortable for the citizens.

PTI Central Information Secretary Shireen Mazari stressed that the mindset that public transport is only for the lower classes should change. “Public transport should be for all classes of the society so that all people can ride safely and comfortably.”

Shireen Mazari also placed special emphasis on the need and implementation of laws and regulations that not only provide dignity and safety to passengers, but also regulate transport providers. She went on to explain that emissions from the transport sector could only be lowered if the number of vehicles on the road are reduced.

PML-N leader Marvi Memon focused attention on Vision 2025 and accentuated the importance of the Pak-China corridor that would link markets.

“Vision 2025 would hold citizens together for national uplifting and progress, and allow for maximum seamless connectivity,” she said. Memon discussed how projects like the Metro Bus Service helped generate employment and helped bridge the urban-rural divide. Memon emphasised that land spatial planning is needed in urban areas, and rural areas and villages need to be empowered through improved transport connectivity.

PPP Deputy Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza highlighted road safety and the need for establishing driver training and safety centres to promote responsible behaviour on the road.

MQM leader Col. (R) Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi said, “divisions among classes and people disappear when they sit in the same bus.”

PML-Q leader Mian Imran Masood stated that, “[past] successful transport systems that used to operate in Pakistan, such as the Faisalabad Urban Transport System (FUTS), fell prey to corruption and victimisation at the hands of various entities and ended up getting closed.

“There needs to be a change in mindset of policy makers to allow for better mass transit systems in Pakistan,” he added. He lamented “all such projects, irrespective of what political party was in power, ended up being shelved due to various vested interests.”

ANP‘s Shahi Syed said that Pakistan is plagued by terrorism and corruption; humanity and the value of life need to be a national priority. He said that the problem of transportation was not the problem of one man, rather the entire country suffered as a whole.

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Naeem ur Rehman provided a background of public transport in Karachi. He informed the audience that in the 60s and 70s Karachi used to have a very good public transport system where almost 60 per cent of the vehicles belonged to public transport, while only 20 per cent accounted for individual cars. He stressed that with proper policies and good governance the public transport can be improved again.

IUCN Pakistan Country Representative Mahmood Akhtar Cheema appreciated the involvement of all political parties, and the media in maintaining a positive approach towards the issue of public transport in Pakistan.

The PAKSTRAN Project is being implemented by the Government of Pakistan, through the Government of Sindh (Transport Department), Government of Punjab (Urban Unit, Planning and Development Department) and IUCN.